Life purpose is one of those concepts that gets thrown around with the assumption that we all know what we mean by it. But if you dig just a little deeper, you’ll likely find that people mean different things when they talk about purpose.
The way we frame it, purpose can be broken down into two questions:
Who are you?
What is yours to do?
The first purpose question—Who are you?— is tied closely to Commitment 6, living a life of integrity. Part of being in integrity—a state of wholeness—is recognizing when your life is aligned with the truth of who you are. Leaders on purpose experience a felt sense of wholeness; leaders off purpose often sense that something is missing or not complete.
The second purpose question—What is yours to do?—relates with Commitment 8, zone of genius. Leaders who are devoted to living on purpose take the time to discover and name the ins and outs of their zone of genius, and then go about the business of living from it.
To the extent you’re aligned with both, you’re more likely to have a sense of being “on purpose.” To the extent that you’re out of alignment with either or both, you’re more likely to have a sense of being adrift or “off purpose.”
If people long to live their life’s purpose, why do we spend so much time seeking it rather than living it?
Many of us give up on purpose because there’s no clear path to get there. When our enthusiasm fades, we trade our hunger to be on purpose for more culturally promoted notions of success (money, fame, social status, etc.). Without a sense of purpose though, at some point they end up feeling empty or not enough.
Second, people get scared that they’ll have to give up things they care about if they follow their purpose. Most of the time, it’s not nearly as drastic as people imagine it’s going to be. Yes, there will likely be changes, but you’ll still have choices. Those who do what it takes to live on purpose report that the sense of freedom and flow that follows makes whatever they gave up well worth it.
So you’re willing...Where to start?
It’s difficult to be on purpose when your life is full drama and you believe that you’re a victim to circumstance. The more you can take responsibility for the results you’re creating in your life, the more likely you’ll be able to align with your purpose.
So my first advice to people who want to live on purpose is to acknowledge where there is drama in your life. Next is to take responsibility for the outcomes you’re creating by cultivating the awareness to notice when you’re below the line, and the skills—and willingness— to shift relatively quickly when you find yourself there. The good news is that the inverse is also true: focusing on purpose can take the place of the adrenaline high that drama often provides, making it easier to reduce drama in your life.
You’re learning to take responsibility? What’s next?
Take the time to get to know yourself more deeply and comprehensively. A simple and effective way to do this is to ask yourself smart questions to get to the heart of who you are and what is yours to do.
To get started, download this PDF: Defining Purpose. Go through the process to get a deeper understanding of your purpose; you’ll end up with a detailed purpose statement. For a more comprehensive understanding of your purpose and support in living wildly on purpose, I recommend working with a professional.
*We offer many resources to support reducing drama in your life and taking responsibility for the outcomes you create. I encourage you to read The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership and integrate the practices in the book, check out our Handouts for 15 commitments exercises and practices, or engage one of our coaches for 1-1 coaching. I coach leaders who are already practicing conscious leadership on zone of genius and purpose.